Friday, March 5, 2010

Book Review: The Bread of Angels by Stephanie Saldana

*review copy provided by publisher*
The Bread of Angels: A Journey to Love and Faith is the memoir of Stephanie during her year spent living in Damascus.  When Stephanie leaves the United States as a Fulbright scholar studying the Muslim Jesus in Syria, she leaves behind a broken heart and a broken family.  As she tries to pull herself together, she decides to spend a month doing spiritual exercises in a remote monastery, changing her life forever when she comes to know a French novice monk.
The Bread of Angels: A Journey to Love and Faith

Things I Liked:
The writing of this unique memoir is very beautiful - you can tell Saldana is a poet.  Phrases in the book would just pop out and surprise me with their depth and beauty.  You really begin to feel some of the things Saldana experiences very vividly.  I admire her for the passionate and complete ways she experiences religion and the scriptures.  She tends to throw herself completely into whatever she does.  The interesting views and ideas about religion and Christianity and Islam in particular really broadened my perspectives.  The little vignettes of life in the Middle East are so real and I just fell in love with the places and people she meets: the Baron, the Sheikha, Hassan, and Frederic of course.  Here are just a few samples of the parts I loved:

"I come to the Umayyad Mosque to witness a miracle.  At around five o'clock every evening, the sun begins to set over Damascus,and the light gathers in a pool over the white marble courtyard, illuminating the tiles, until everyone walking on it appears as though they are angels.  Light reflects from the ground up into their bodies...Each time I witness it, I am almost moved to tears - at the sight of humans so ethereal, so transcendent that they might have wings, might press their toes against the ground and then lift off, away from all of this madness.  Nothing appears sinister in that light." p65 of ARC
"The Eastern legend says that the monk leaves the world to take on the cloak of a stranger, to become nobody, that he becomes a stranger among strangers, a desolate wanderer who carries the entire world within his heart.  It is in this sacrifice that he is given a particular gift, to transform the entire world within himself through prayer.  So he walks, alone, carrying the world within his broken body, connected to others through breath and dreams, separated from all and united to all." p 100 of ARC
"I had wanted so much to save someone's life.  But it turned out that the only life that I could hope to save was my own." p167 of ARC
"...in the moment of suffering, humans take on a transcendent power and beauty.  In the Bible, the moment in which Abraham is asked to give up his son is the first time that love is mentioned by name: Take now they son, thy only son Isaac, whom thou lovest.  Love is given a name in the moment of sacrifice, at the moment in which we face the terrifying possibility of loss.  Suffering is the moment when love appears." p 216 of ARC
Things I Didn't Like:
The first 2/3 of the book really dragged for me.  Despite the beautiful writing and unique life Saldana leads, I really wanted to hear about the story of love that the blurb from the back focused on.  Frederic doesn't appear until about the last 1/3 of the book, so I really struggled with interest level.  Also, sometimes I thought she was a little too dramatic - she responds to things so violently, it was almost over the top.

It reminded me a little of The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman

s-factor: !@
nothing too strong, but fairly frequent

mrg-factor: X
a few mentions, nothing graphic

v-factor: ->
not so much violent, but rather depressing at times

Overall rating: ****

Do you like to read memoirs of other people's spiritual experiences?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage


  1. This one sounds interesting. I remember really loving Eat, Pray, Love when I read it awhile ago, but I'm not sure how well I'd like it now.

  2. Sounds like a beautiful book. I haven't read very many memoirs about other people's spiritual experiences but I think as long as it isn't preachy I could enjoy one. I'm not in the mood for a book like this right now but maybe one day soon.

  3. Brenda, I haven't read that one yet, but heard lots about it.

    Kim, it really is well-written and I recommend it when you do feel like reading one :)


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